This Ratdog Review Wants You!
Here's the story from the Poughkeepsie Journal:
RatDog barks and bites
By John W. Barry
On one of the coldest nights of the year, former Grateful Dead guitarist
Bob Weir in a roundabout way Tuesday reminded winter-weary Hudson Valley
residents that daylight savings time is just days away and spring starts in two weeks.
As roughly a thousand people shook off their winter parkas and the cold in a
packed Paramount Center for the Arts in Peekskill, Weir took the stage with
his band RatDog in shorts and sandals. Throughout the night, green and
orange lights projected on a screen that could cover the side of a barn gave
Weir and his band mates a stunning backdrop and could have given anyone
tired of zero degree days the sense of a lush green field or sizzling summer
Capping this grand illusion that the crowd indulged in with Weir was his
churning, massaged rendition of Jamaican reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff’s
“Sitting in Limbo," which summoned the spirit of the Caribbean, tall drinks with
tiny umbrellas and beachfront bonfires at dusk.
“Sitting in Limbo” was one of the night’s highlights, but a pair of bluesy
tunes from the Grateful Dead catalog anchored the evening from the outset.
Weir led the crowd through a session of “howl”-and-response during “Little
Red Rooster” and band and crowd alike watched as “Wang Dang Doodle” inched
slowly toward explosion, much like the lit fuse on a stick of dynamite.
Though the RatDog repertoire is made up largely of time-tested songs the
Grateful Dead performed over four decades, Weir, keyboard player Jeff
Chimenti, saxophone player Kenny Brooks, guitarist Mark Karan, bassist Robin
Sylvester and drummer Jay Lane by no means rested on any laurels.
In fact, this San Francisco Bay Area-based ensemble seemed to wander far out
of its comfort zone Tuesday night by bringing a taste of the middle east
to the Hudson Valley. They tweaked guitar chords and worked repeated musical
phrases — sometimes simply playing two notes over and over in a rhythmical
mantra — to create rock 'n' roll ragas.
Judging by the flailing arms and wide smiles, many in the audience seemed to
hope that this concert would last a thousand and one nights.
Weir, on the other hand, might have been wishing he was somewhere other
than Peekskill during the first set closer, “Might As Well," a Grateful Dead
rocker. He forgot many of the lyrics and watched helplessly — in front of a
packed house - as the song caved in around him.
The subject of the song was fitting for the moment from which Weir sought to
extricate himself. “Might As Well” is about a 1970 locomotive ride across
Canada that carried the Dead, The Band, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy and many
other notables to concerts throughout the provinces. And Weir’s rendition of
"Might As Well" last night was truly a train wreck.
But in true Grateful Dead fashion, he salvaged the song and finished with a
Standouts of the evening were Brooks, whose horn playing stole the spotlight
every time he put his lips to his mouthpiece. And Chimenti played piano like
Hoagy Carmichael in a gin joint, tickling the ivories during “Ship of Fools”
and offering what might have been the only bright spot of “Might As Well.”
RatDog finished out the show with several long, improvised rock 'n roll jams
that offered Weir and the band a lot of room to experiment, which was truly
where this dog maintained its bark and its bite.
RatDog is scheduled to play the Beacon Theater in Manhattan Thursday, Friday
and Saturday. For information on the band, set lists and tour schedule,
visit www.ratdog.org and www.rat-dog.com.